Thursday, November 26, 2009

Anish Kapoor

I have been (sort of) aware of the work of the UK sculptor Anish Kapoor through the copper coloured polished curved mirror in the Art Gallery of NSW permanent collection, but his work was highlighted to me by a paper given at the Sculpture by the Sea symposium held at the Art Gallery on 2nd November. At it Noel Lane talked about the extraordinary Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park in Kaipara Harbour, New Zealand of which he is the director. It’s difficult to explain the sculpture park and it has no website so you need to google Gibbs Farm Sculpture Park to get a feel for it. But it is the brainchild of one of New Zealand’s wealthiest men and long time patron of the arts, Alan Gibbs.

I met Alan in unusual circumstances when he visited Shackleton’s Hut in Antarctica in 2004, where I was undertaking a conservation survey of the artefacts. Alan distinguished himself by finding and then eating a small piece of dried parsnip that had fallen out of a corroded food can and blown across the site to the edge of a melt pool and become rehydrated. The parsnip was a revolting grey colour and had, if I remember rightly, a small piece of penguin guano that needed removal before Alan gave it the taste test. I was convinced he was going to die on the spot, but he lived to tell the tale.

Anyway back to his Farm, and on it he has commissioned Anish Kapoor to design a quite amazing, 84m-long, twisted, red cone. It cuts through a ridge like some celestial megaphone, its sheer size being just astounding. Fabricated from wires and red fabric it sways in the wind. Since then, being now somewhat fascinated by Kapoor’s work I have realised that the enormous stainless steel form outside the Chicago Art Institute is also by him.

So being in London last week, I was delighted to find a temporary exhibition of his work at the Royal Academy (and incidentally everyone talking about it and him). It certainly is quite an exhibition. Apart from more mirrored stainless steel forms and some new experiments in piles of concrete excreted from a computer- controlled three dimensional printer, the shows stars are both made from red pigmented wax. The first involves a cannon which fires 20 pound blocks of wax into a wall in an adjoining room every 20 minutes, which will result by the end of the exhibition in over 30 tonnes of wax accumulating and progressively melting out through the doorway. The second is even more extraordinary taking over 5 whole galleries. It involves a vast chunk of wax weighing over 30 tonnes and measuring 8 metres long moving very slowly along a track and being forced to squeeze through four adjoining doorways between the galleries, being sculpted by the doorways as it does so.

If you are in London before Christmas do make the time to see the exhibition.

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